Case study

Make Each Space Productive in Multi Warehouse Operations

Sep 17, 2021 | Pallet Racking

Business operations which involve the management of physical goods in high volumes are faced with enormous challenges. Wholesalers, retailers and 3PL’s for instance seek to ensure effective inventory control in order to achieve the highest level of productivity. When operating from multiple warehouse facilities, this is an undertaking of a much larger scale than that of a single warehouse operation.

The Multi Warehouse Operation

Prioritising effective inventory management is how businesses maintain their most valuable asset which could also become a liability if unusable through poor inventory management. Within a large building space, in the form of a warehouse, inventory which could consist of the end products, parts or raw material is processed, stored and despatched. It appears logical as a new or small business to keep the inventory management process under one roof however if your customer base grows and becomes more widespread, your warehouse reaches capacity and service standards fall, it may be time to consider multi warehousing.

Multi warehousing is commonly associated with vast enterprises such as Amazon who operate hundreds of warehouse fulfilment centres globally however multi warehousing is fundamental to any organisation influenced by growth. A multi warehouse organisation could be operating from as little as two warehouses to countless warehouses all of which are located to ensure various regions can be easily served. The ability to despatch orders from a warehouse geographically closer to its delivery destination will result in:

  • A faster, more effective service
  • Transportation cost savings

Streamlining a Multi Warehouse Operation

For a multiple warehouse operation to be successful, it’s crucial to ensure effective management of both the warehouse and inventory:

Inventory Management – Where the emphasis is on inventory ensuring it is managed, controlled and monitored effectively through accurate tracking, forecasting, ordering andcosting.

Warehouse Management – Here the focus is on the warehouse activities to ensure security, safety and effectiveness during the movement and storage of inventory. Effective warehouse management involves the implementation of safe secure structures and equipment, staff training, safety measures and storage systems that support inventory and operational needs.

When looking to streamline a multi warehouse operation both inventory and warehouse management can be simplified through cautious planning. Multiple warehouses within the same organisation may have differences which are why each warehouse should be assessed individually in order to create the most effective operation in each. Assess each warehouse in terms of:

Space – How much space does each individual warehouse have? Measure the full cubic area to ensure any opportunity to utilise height space as well as floor space is never missed.

The position of external routes – The location of goods-in and despatch will dictate directional flow and influence the warehouse layout.

Inventory – What type of inventory will or does the warehouse manage? Will each warehouse hold the same inventory type? Will one warehouse be ambient where as the other chilled for example? Will volume and speed vary in each facility?

Planning your warehouse space is your first step. An optimum warehouse layout will give way to effective warehouse and inventory management however before outlining the plans it is important to consider departments, traffic and workflow whilst understanding your storage system and equipment options.

Warehouse Pallet Racking

Multi Warehouses –  Layout Plans

As every building is different in terms of shape, size and height each warehouse should be designed to suit its individual characteristics. The goal is to achieve maximum productivity in each facility.

Formulating the warehouse interior, warehouse layout plans should be mapped out in accordance to the following principles:

  • Directional flow
  • Simple and uncomplicated
  • Space optimisation
  • Storage & Equipment

Directional flow is influenced by the location goods-in and despatch areas. The goods from entering the facility to leaving should follow an uncomplicated one-way route. When running multiple warehouses, directional flow may not be the same in all facilities as external route positioning may differ for each.

The I shaped route

Inventory passes through the full length of the warehouse with entry and exit points running parallel at opposite ends. Between the entry and exit points, storage structures are implemented and stock is stored in accordance to turnover to ensure optimal picking. This is the most optimal layout for fast low inventory.

The L shaped route

As the inventory travels, direction changes just once after entry to allow exit through the despatch area located on the adjoining side.

The U shaped route

Changing direction twice the inventory enters and exits the facility from the same side on which both goods-in and despatch openings are located.

Mapping your routes – On a blank canvas in the form of a clear paper, the floor and route location can be drawn up so you can visualise how the traffic will flow within the building.

Inventory directional flow diagrams

Departmental space and location planning

Within a warehouse, multiple departments work in collaboration and how space is allocated to each department can influence the overall process. With directional flow in mind, departments should be positioned to ensure a more streamlined operation, eliminating process disruption and minimising travel times. Also consider how much space each department is likely to require ensuring efficient space is allocated without compromising other areas. Depending on individual warehouse size, shape and processes the departments and their sizes may vary from one warehouse to the next. In some instances a warehouse mezzanine floor can be implemented to create more space for required departments such as office space or more storage areas. This is a highly effective solution if the floor space is unable to accommodate all requirements and it costs less than a bigger warehouse.

Mapping your departments – Add departments and their most optimum location on your drawn up plan to help you ensure they are positioned in a streamlined order. Departments can include goods in, reception, storage, offices, WC’s and despatch.

Storage mezzanine L shaped

Multi Warehouse Storage Planning

Storage structures are the largest units within the plan, the good news however is that warehouse racking and shelving can be used cleverly to optimise space when the right system(s) is implemented. When considering storage systems for more than one warehouse, it’s not always viable to have the same structures and configurations in each as the space size, directional flow and inventory needs may differ.

Understanding your storage system options

Pallet racking is a structure consisting of various steel components including beams, uprights and frames and allows the warehouse to store loaded pallets in high volumes in rows and levels, enabling co-ordinated storage. The pallets are placed and handled using a fork lift truck which makes the process of pallet movement safe, swift and easy. If you’re storing pallets in any of your warehouses, pallet racking is the required form of storage system; however it’s important to know that pallet racking comes in a number of different formats. To ensure the right system for your operation consider whether:

  • Stock rotation is a priority – When handling perishable goods, the additional need to rotate stock can’t be ignored. As stock rotation is a common requirement, there are pallet racking systems such as pallet live racking, designed to assist by working on the First-in First-out (FIFO) basis. This takes away the need for manual stock rotation saving the operation time which saves the business money.
  • Temperature control is required – Storing cold chain stock will unfortunately incur additional costs due to high energy consumption, however implementing a pallet racking system which is compact such as Mobile racking for example, can help reduce those costs. A compact pallet racking structure allows more storage within the same space by replacing aisle space with more storage and there are FIFO operated options available too.
  • Floor space is limited – Compact pallet racking is also an option for limited floor space, however if height space is generous a tall pallet racking structure such as narrow aisle racking is a highly feasible option, however a specialist FLT will be required to ensure the high racks and slim width aisles can be accessed.

See graph showing pallet racking systems and their capabilities

Easy read chart - Pallet racking types

If your operation requires none palletised storage, there’s plenty of options whatever your inventory needs:

Warehouse shelving provides effective storage for hand loaded items and again comes in varied forms. For the larger more bulky items long span shelving is an option that is flexible, affordable and durable. The system can even be multi tiered with floor levels and staircases to allow full use of overhead space, ideal for those storing within a limited footprint area. If goods are small and light, short span shelving is fully adjustable and can be configured to meet inventory needs whilst saving space and money. Short span shelving can be configured to create mobile shelving, which means the shelves sit on a mobile base allowing the units to open and close. This eliminates static aisles so you can increase the number of shelving units, making better use of space.

For goods to large, long and heavy none palletised racking systems include:

Cantilever racking – Made up of a robust base and upright from which cantilever arms protrude to allow long heavy items to be laid across using a FLT

Carpet racking – A boom FLT attachment is a long pole that enters the centre of a rolled carpet and places it into a carpet racking slot which is a long tunnelled rack.

D-divider racking – For manually handled goods, too long for shelves the d-divider racks store the items in an upright position with D shaped barriers fitted to prevent them from falling.

Mapping your storage systems –Your chosen storage solutions and how they are configured should be included in your floor plan design.

 

Make Each Warehouse Successful with WSL

At WSL a large proportion of our clients operate multiple warehouses, some we have worked with since they began with just one warehouse. When assisting clients with more than one warehouse our design team centres on the companies goals as well as individual warehouse needs and operations. For each individual warehouse our designers carry out a free site survey enabling a very thorough assessment of the space whilst allowing the opportunity to gather information regarding the operations within the facility. At WSL our priority is to create solutions using our extensive experience that will make every warehouse within the individual business productive and successful. We achieve this by offering a tailored service for every project whilst keeping the overall business goals inclusive.

If you would like to call on our extensive experience of over three decades, take advantage of our manufacturing capability and rely on our impeccable service contact WSL today on 0113 2045350 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk

Whether your looking to improve your existing warehouse operations or your looking implement new solutions for a new warehouse, our team will be more than happy to assist.

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